11 Craft Distilleries Close to Home
Get an Uber and take a little hop around the DMV for some tastings.
We do love our boutique wineries and craft microbreweries. Lately the small-batch trend has expanded to spirits, giving rise to craft distilleries harking back to those romantic days of Prohibition when resourceful bootleggers got creative with whatever local ingredients they had on hand. Partial to the hard stuff? Here are 11 modern-day enterprises making fine spirits right in our own backyard. Check their websites and social media feeds for intel about hours of operation, tours and what’s in the works.
Rum is the name of the game at this year-and-a-half-old, industrial-looking spot across the street from D.C.’s bustling Union Market in Northeast. The brainchild of two former aerospace and NASA strategists, the operation turns out a daiquiri-ready white rum, a dry spiced rum and an Allspice Dram, another tiki specialty. Next up: Mellow Gold, which will be vapor infused with American oak and aged in bourbon barrels. Even if you’re not touring, it’s worth stopping by just to sit at the ample, multi-sided bar and dive into some of the city’s best unfussy cocktails, to say nothing of the yacht rock playlists that often crop up on the stereo. –J.D.
1330 Fifth St. NE, Washington, D.C.
Set in a series of converted row houses along a prime section of U Street, this may be the city’s most ambitious spirits operation, in that it includes not only a full distillery, but a multiroom bar and restaurant that serves seven days a week. It’s certainly the most mysterious—many of its partners still haven’t revealed themselves, except to say they’re siblings and spouses. One who has: Molly Cummings, a professor of biology at the University of Texas, who forages wild juniper in West Texas for the distillery’s gins. They also make a rum and a vodka on site, and source whiskey for their bourbon and rye. Insider tip: Ask for a taste of the small batch “Embassy Row” releases, which have included a creme de menthe and a grappa. –J.D.
1414-1418 U St. NW, Washington, D.C.
You won’t see any gleaming copper stills in this tiny Northwest D.C. facility; just dozens of tubs and barrels containing a witch’s brew of secret ingredients macerating in alcohol. Don’t let the spare look of things fool you: This is where Francesco Amodeo creates arguably some of the most interesting liqueurs in America. The Amalfi Coast native turns out amaros, bitter orange apertivos, limoncello and even a new rhubarb apertivo—many derived from family recipes dating to the late 1800s. They’re all intended to play well in cocktails, so he mixes up a few from a makeshift bar every Saturday. –J.D.
6031 Kansas Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.
Falls Church’s first entry into boutique spirits is a family affair: Michael Paluzzi, an Air Force veteran and former sales executive in the tech sector, started the business with his son Lorenzo, a trained chemist. When they opened last year, in addition to the expected vodka and bourbon, they also threw pepper vodka and lemon verbena gin into the mix. On deck for 2018 are a barrel-aged rum and an apple brandy aged in Virginia red-wine barrels. If your friends aren’t all in the spirit for spirits, not to worry: The distillery also serves beer, wine and an Italian menu. –J.D.
442 S. Washington St., Falls Church